The cruise travel industry took a major hit after the arrival of Covid-19 and the future is still in question a year later.
March 2020 saw the largest Coronavirus cluster outside mainland China on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan.
The ship, operated by Princess Cruises, sailed from Japan into the ports of China, Vietnam, and Taiwan carrying 3,700 passengers. There were nearly 700 confirmed cases, with 14 passengers dying of the virus.
Quarantine measures and infection control methods were criticized, as Covid positive passengers mixed with negative, and protective clothing for staff and medical professionals was lacking.
The chaos was mirrored in many places in early 2020, with governments and healthcare institutions trying to get to grips with a global pandemic in a modern, interconnected world.
How infections is it? Do we wear masks? How do we control the spread? Were questions everyone was asking at the time.
The cruise industry tried to address all those questions and more as travel uncertainty remained a feature of 2020.
More recently, large cruise ships arriving into ports have become a welcome sight, with Sitka, Alaska witnessing its first vessel since 2019. The Marella Explorer docked in the Scottish Highlands and was the first ship of its kind to do so since the start of the pandemic.
But what will cruise getaways look like in summer 2021? TripSided takes a look at what trends cruise-goers can expect to see for the remainder of this year and beyond.
Robust Health Screenings
It will come as no surprise that more thorough health screening and testing will be commonplace on ships in 2021. Proving negative Covid tests, temperature checks, and health questionnaires will be industry standard for a while yet.
Passenger vaccines are where it gets slightly more complicated as different countries will have varying requirements. For example, if you want to travel to Spain with Royal Caribbean, all passengers of any age will need to be vaccinated.
But, cruises departing from Seattle, Washington, only require passengers 16 or older to be vaccinated (this will change from 16 to 12-year-olds in August 2021).
There are also some limitations on what vaccine will be accepted; vaccines administered during the trial phase won’t be valid on P&O Cruises, neither will a “mix ‘n’ match” of vaccines, such as one Pfizer jab and one Moderna.
Passengers traveling with Carnival won’t have to wear masks on board but will if sailing with Royal Caribbean. Each country and cruise provider will have their own, slightly differing requirements.
Small Ship Cruises
In the world of cruising, “small” is relative; Royal Caribbean’s smallest vessel can still accommodate 2,000 people and provides passengers with an outdoor pool, outdoor dining, a casino, and plenty of public space.
However, the benefits are the greater number of destinations, the environmental impact, and in the post-pandemic climate having fewer people on board will be seen as a positive.
Companies such as SeaDream Yacht Club provide an immersive “yachting” experience on a smaller scale, with the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and transatlantic voyages available.
Contactless payment is nothing new on cruise ships, with companies trying to make the experience more seamless before 2020, but now, it’s a necessity.
The MSC Grandiosa saw the rollout of MSC for Me contactless wristbands with proximity tracing in all of their “smart ships”, which have touch screen points dotted around and “Zoe”, the first virtual cruise assistant.
In 2019, Norwegian Cruise Line won the Cruise Critics “Best for Solo Travellers” award. With some social distancing measures in place on some cruises, the solo experience may be less desirable than before as “contactless” extends to people outside of a social bubble.
Mixing with strangers, going for a meal, a drink, and dating are just some of the ways solo travelers engage with their destination when exploring alone. Without these sociable options, solo travel may seem a little less inviting.
The environment and sustainable living are high on the agenda of the modern traveler; how to enjoy your time off and expand your horizons without the guilt of contributing negatively to climate change is something the cruise industry needed to respond to.
The issue for the cruise industry is explained in a 2017 survey by the clean transport campaign group, Transport and Environment, which showed that one fleet of Carnival cruise ships pumped out as much sulfur oxides (SOX) as all 260 million cars in Europe at the time. Carnival hit back, refuting the claim, saying they had already reduced emissions to 0.05%.
Companies such as Hurtigruten in Norway pride themselves on their support of local initiatives, which see passengers clean up beaches and participate in habitat restoration projects.
Uniworld River Cruises has vessels sailing worldwide; they buy local produce for the kitchen and are involved with the Sustainable River Cruising Project with the Tread Right Foundation.
According to Deloitte, one in three consumers stopped using certain brands because of concerns about sustainability practices and 68% of people limiting their use of single-use plastics.
Cruise operators have aimed to cut down on single-use plastics, with Oceania Cruises teaming up with eco-friendly bottled water company Vero and fitting its six ships with water distillation systems. The goal is to eliminate 3 million plastic water bottles per year and drink from a reusable Vero bottle.